Stormhammer – Echoes of a Lost Paradise
Release Date: August 7, 2015
German power metal band Stormhammer is back with its newest full-length release, Echoes of a Lost Paradise. Formed in the early 1990’s by guitarist Manny Ewender and bassist Horst Tessman this quintet is on its fifth full-length album, and its first since 2009’s Signs of Revolution. Echoes of a Lost Paradise marks the debut for new vocalist Jürgen Dachl, drummer Chris Widmann, and guitarist Bernd Intveen. Despite being somewhat regarded as a second-string power metal band in the saturated German music scene, if Manowar and Manilla Road could have a baby, Stormhammer would be it.
For any power metal fan, a name like Stormhammer is pretty exhilarating at first glance. Looking at the band’s artwork creates just as much fervor, featuring a person on a frozen lake staring at a massive mountainside castle. Who could resist? The excitement is solidified as “Remembrance” kicks off the album. The eerie distant horns hit with march-like snare drum accents, and I truly thought I had found another band to fall in love with. All I could picture was this person from the artwork stepping off the boat and taking the castle by storm with his skillful sword – until ultimately falling to his honorable death.
What seemed to be an exponential growth of epic proportion, the choir begins their chants and the song grows and grows until it all fades into “Glory Halls of Valhalla”. This precise moment… a moment that I would expect to be so larger-than-life such as stepping into the halls of Valhalla… is where all of that fantasy atmosphere and emotional momentum dies. Though it was slower tempo than expected, I dug the bass feature with violin and drums in the beginning. However, the vocals lose it all for me. That being said, the song is not all bad. It is however, totally unexpected and somewhat out-of-place with an intro track such as “Remembrance”. This well produced, fantastical atmosphere now turns into this raw, near spoken-word song that caught me off guard.
Though I thought this album was a lost cause, as my hunger for epic, orchestra-rich power metal still remained strong, I continued my initial listen and am glad that I did. “Fast Life” is a great pick-me-up with riffs and drum patterns that sucked me back into the initial hope I held for this album. The title track brings more drama back to the record and continues the uptempo heavy metal riffage, occasionally accompanied by keyboard and orchestration, that really adds a lot to the otherwise flat music.
Once again I found my attention began drifting elsewhere, but the band sucked me back in with “Leaving”, which features more stunning guitar work. Though the verse parts leave a bit to be desired, this guitar talent cannot go unmentioned and I cannot help but wish the band showcased this more often.
As the album continues, the tracks “Holy War” and “Stormrider” do grow on me quite a bit. However, the album as a whole gets somewhat stale. The verses seem to build up well, but the fairly monotonous vocals and choruses make the music feel as if it hasn’t moved very far. The band is not new to the idea of songwriting, and perhaps the relatively low production quality is not helping, but this album to me is aptly named after echoes of a lost paradise – dragging and melancholic, but deserving (and craving) for so much more.